Bernie Sanders’s plans have surprisingly small benefits for America’s poorest people

Sanders’s overall philosophy is to tax the rich more heavily to provide more benefits for all. The costliest benefits would come from establishing a government-run universal health-insurance program and eliminating tuition at public colleges and universities.

Yet these initiatives would not radically change the lives of the country’s poorest people. Many poor Americans already qualify for Medicaid. Higher education is a distant dream for many of them. Likewise, doubling the minimum wage would only help those who already have a job.

Economists who support Sanders’s proposals generally argue that a major increase in federal borrowing would stimulate an economy that seems persistently weak, putting more people to work and increasing national income.

When President Clinton was in office, the economy was expanding rapidly and poverty declined. Sanders’s spending could replicate those conditions — for example, he proposes an additional $1 trillion on repairing and maintaining physical infrastructure, which his campaign says would employ 13 million people.

On the other hand, some on the left say this logic just repeats what they see as the error of Clinton’s approach to poverty.